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November 20th, 2022         Political Note #524 Aaron Rouse VASD07

2022                                          General Election

At Virginia Wesleyan University in Virginia Beach, flanked by State Senator Mamie Locke, Congresswoman Elaine Luria, and his wife Councilwoman-elect Jennifer Rouse, Virginia Beach City Councilman Aaron Rouseannounced his candidacy for the State Senate special election scheduled for January 10, 2023.

In a rare example of political cooperation under circumstances where it was not clear whether the Governor or the Senate President had the authority to set the date, the two of them jointly announced the date for the upcoming special election.  The vacancy exists because the current State Senator, Republican Jen Kiggans, has resigned as of December 31, 2022 after having defeated Elaine Luria in the November 8, 2022 election for Congress.

Democrats are working to regain control of Virginia’s politics.  In November, 2021, in an election that was seen as foretelling Republican nationwide strength in the November, 2022 mid-terms, Republican Glenn Youngkin was elected Governor of Virginia.  Virginia governors may not be elected to a second consecutive term.  Prior to Youngkin’s victory over former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Democrats had been elected Governor two terms in a row.  Democrats had control of the House of Delegates and the State Senate.  They lost control of the House of Delegates in 2021.

State Senators have four-year terms. In 2021, the State Senate was not up for election.  Control of the State Senate has been closely contested for years.  Consider the following chart:

Election Years Democrats Republican
1991 22 18
1995 20 20
1999 19 21
2003 17 23
2007 22 18
2011 20 20
2015 19 21
2019 21 19

Virginia Senate District 07 has been particularly subject to close contests.  On January 10, 2017 – exactly six years before the upcoming special election – Democratic Delegate Cheryl Turpin attempted a step up to the State Senate in a special election.  She lost the special election by nearly 6 points, but ran again in November and won by 394 votes. In November 2019, with nearly triple the turnout, she lost to Republican Jen Kiggans by 511 votes.

While Cheryl Turpin has been contemplating an attempted return run for the New State Senate District 22, which will largely replace District 07, Aaron Rouse has been gathering support and endorsements for the January 10, 2023 special election plus the November general election.  Shifting Senate District 07 to the Democrats and shifting the seat balance to 22-18 would give Democrats greater ability to stand in the way of Governor Youngkin’s agenda – particularly proposals for additional restrictions on abortion which some analysts anticipate.

Aaron Rouse was a football player at Virginia Tech.  He was no Herschel Walker, but he was good enough to go on from Virginia Tech to play for the Green Bay Packers, the New York Giants, and the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL.  He is no Herschel Walker in his post football life either, for which we can be grateful. To begin with, he actually graduated with the Virginia Tech class in 2007.  When he was done with football in 2011 as a consequence of injuries from an automobile accident, he returned to Virginia Beach

Aaron Rouse did good works.  He coached a middle school football team.  He spoke at anti-violence events.  He founded an education-oriented non-profit which, among other things, funded interesting field trips for kids who respond with the required essay on, say, obstacles they have overcome.  He turned to politics. In 2018, he was elected as an at large member of the Virginia Beach City Council.  On the City Council he advocated steps to make Virginia Beach a tourist destination.  He worked on restoring the Something in the Water Festival, creating a new District based voting system, and providing raises for Virginia Beach employees.    He also worked hard on helping the community deal with the mass shooting in 2021.  He brought the State Attorney General to town to meet with victims’ families and help them understand what the state could do for them.

Aaron Rouse was preparing to run for the redistricted VASD22 (the Court’s new redistricting plans will go into effect for the election of 2023).  Though he played on defense, he knows from football the importance of running toward an opening.  He signed up for the now open seat 7th Senate District Seat. Aware of how little time candidates were given to run, he quickly got himself the local and the statewide support he would need, and announced his candidacy.  He could conceivably have a Democratic opponent, which would call for a “firehouse primary.”  Cheryl Turpin has indicated an interest in returning to the state senate.  She had not filed for this special election.  The deadline is tomorrow, November, 21.  Aaron Rouse does have a Republican opponent – Retired navy enlisted man Kevin Adams.  Adams announced his candidacy on November 9.  He promises to cut waste and lower taxes and to end indoctrination in the public schools.

Aaron Rouse has a story to tell.  He talks about the sense of responsibility and the need for hard work and discipline he developed while being raised by his single mother in what he calls “underserved communities.”  He talks about the transformation in opportunity created when Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech’s football coach, offered him the promise of a scholarship when he was a junior in high school.  He credits Frank Beamer’s approach to leadership as an example for him.  “To be a leader means allowing everyone to voice concerns and choosing the best ideas.  When you work together, you can accomplish anything.”

Aaron Rouse focuses on his community and tells the constituents over and over again that it is representing them that counts.  He promises to defend a woman’s right to choose her reproductive care, to protect Hampton Roads’ waterways, and to support criminal justice reform.  He cannot promise that his election would sustain the local and even national momentum created by Democrats who did much better in the 2022 mid-terms than expected.  It is possible, though.  Help Aaron Rouse win the first election after the 2022 mid-terms.

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